The tourists were at their worst and might not return to Europe at all.
For Tottenham, this was the beginning of a pivotal week. At St. James’ Park, the opening 20 minutes were more than sufficient to inform the world. This team lacks structure, personality, and quality. Following this terrible performance, the games against Manchester United and Liverpool won’t provide any reason to believe that a top-four finish is possible. Spurs appear more likely to fall into midtable, leave the European spots, and fall farther down the league.
Even that would only be a fair assessment of their performance in this 6-1 loss to Newcastle, a team that has quickly surpassed them. This was fourth vs fifth before to the game’s start, and it was theoretically a playoff for Champions League money. In actuality, it seemed to be considerably more crucial. The victory may possibly be remembered as a watershed moment for the winners, a day when they solidified their place among the top four in the Premier League. They are in a good position to maintain that position because of the Saudi wealth supporting them.
A Tottenham dynasty that has been gradually crumbling since losing the Champions League final in 2019 may be on its last legs today. The presence of Mauricio Pochettino’s great team in Europe’s top leagues became more sporadic as players aged out or moved on to greener pastures, but they frequently found themselves competing for at least a top-four finish. Now, with five difficult games remaining, it appears quite likely that Aston Villa, Liverpool, Brighton, and even even Fulham might overtake them. Tottenham has only completely lost out on European football and the associated wealth once in the previous 16 seasons. This might be about to alter. How could a club that put on such a miserable performance represent the Premier League on the continent?
It would be far too simple to attribute this performance on Cristian Stellini’s departure from the defensive trio that Tottenham has started every single game for well over a year. They have chosen players and shaped them to work under that specific system. For example, Pedro Porro hasn’t been in a four-man defense for a team since joining Girona on loan in 2018–19. Ivan Perisic is standing across from him, and his traits as a wing back—crossing, overlapping, and final third link play—do not help him at all in a four-man defense.
But systems can only explain so much. If your response to Heung-min Son being forced off the ball by Fabian Schar is to hang around and stare at Jacob Murphy as he set himself up to bend the ball beyond Hugo Lloris from range, you can have 11 men back or one. As they attempted to overturn an early two-goal deficit, this club should have been battling for every ball. They gave up in response and quit. Tottenham only prevailed in one-third of their combat in the first half, which was largely contested in their own third of the field.
They finally came close enough to Newcastle at that point to pose a threat. In the opening minute, neither Pedro Porro nor the terrible Cristian Romero, who had wandered upfield in a way that a center back really shouldn’t when playing in a four-man defense, were able to get close to Joelinton. Because Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was caught off guard, the Brazilian was able to fire a shot that was only parried to Murphy for the game’s first goal.
For the second, Romero and Porro were once more at fault, with Romero stumbling while chasing a long ball over the top that fell at Joelinton’s feet. Alexander Isak’s double came in just two minutes, and after 21 minutes of play, the score was 5-0. Only Watford has let in as many goals at a higher rate in September 2019. Their opponent was Manchester City. Sincerity be damned, the opposition of today felt about the same.
If there was a way to make things worse, it might have been to eject Pape Matar Sarr, the team’s youngest player who was made the fall person for an overall performance that lacked both intelligence and composure. Davinson Sanchez, who was jeered off during the loss to Bournemouth last week, was thrown back into the fray. The best you could say about their play was that it was no longer so appalling that you thought Newcastle may be on for double digits. They may have only given up one more goal from that point on. If Dan Burn’s header hadn’t been stopped by a teammate or Anthony Gordon hadn’t raised the ball slightly higher over the right leg of substitute goalkeeper Fraser Forster, they might have been closer.
In the end, they were content with just one more in the second half. The only player alert to the danger when Romero turned his back on Miguel Almiron’s strike was Callum Wilson, who poked in from close range as the Magpies scored six goals in a Premier League match for the first time in more than seven years. A poacher of Callum Wilson’s caliber was hardly going to let this game pass by without getting on the scoresheet. Since they defeated Pochettino’s Spurs with five goals on the final day of the 2015–16 season, which resulted in their relegation from the top flight, it may be their most stunning victory in the top division. They are headed for the Champions League seven years later.
Harry Kane’s driving run along the left and bending attempt into the far corner, which came before Wilson completed the scoring, seemed to send the same message to the potential suitors who will be lining up for him in the summer. He represents the last hope for Tottenham fans, many of whom had already started the arduous climb down from the St. James’ Park nosebleed seats when Isak scored the game’s fifth goal.
If Kane again decided that enough is enough, they would barely be able to hold him responsible. If he chooses to remain at Spurs, it is either out of a strong sense of loyalty or a deep desire to simply take home any prize. This team squandered the opportunity to not only qualify for the Champions League but also win it. They might miss out on the Conference League and even the Europa League if they continue on their current course.